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Money Fix: Paying off the holiday debt

The financial hangover after the holidays can be

The financial hangover after the holidays can be eased if a consumer commits to repaying holiday debt by March. Photo Credit: iStock

The magic of the holidays is over -- now it's all about the bills.

According to an Experian Consumer Services survey, 70 percent of those polled planned to use credit for the more than $750 they estimated spending. Instead of wallowing in regret, commit to repaying holiday debt by March.

ASSESS THE DAMAGE

Determine how much you spent. Make a list of credit card accounts and include the interest rate, outstanding balance, due dates, credit limit and monthly minimum. "Not only does this keep things organized, it prevents bills from being unaccounted for," says Howard Dvorkin, chairman of Debt.com.

CREATE A REPAYMENT PLAN

"Look at your budget. Set aside money from each paycheck to pay at least the minimum, and set a goal to do more than that," says Leslie Tayne, a financial attorney with the Tayne Law Group in Melville.

FIND CASH

Look for ways to shave expenses, to set aside an extra $50, $75, whatever you can, to pay off the debt. Eat out less often, cancel subscriptions. "Go into winter spending hibernation -- only spend for necessities," Tayne says.

BE STRATEGIC

"Pay off cards with the highest interest rates first and those that are close to their limits," says Kevin Murphy of McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union in Windsor, New Jersey.

AVOID A REPEAT

The major cause of holiday debt is lack of planning. Says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C., "As a starting point, look at how much you spent this year. Divide that by seven. Starting in April, save that amount toward next year's holiday spending."

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